Chess Tactics Puzzle – Can You Find The Solution?

Earlier today I went on to do some chess tactics training. The 3rd chess tactics puzzle I faced was the one in the diagram below. See if you can find the solution:

White to play and win

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Read down for the solution.

To my amazement, the majority of people trying to solve this chess puzzle gave a wrong solution. I could see on the statistics of this chess tactics puzzle that many people tried a move like Ne5? Don’t guess solutions to chess puzzles. Try to solve the puzzle and if you can’t solve it – then give up and look at the answer.

In my article about some typical training mistakes, I explained why you shouldn’t guess the solutions to tactical puzzles – you can read the article by clicking this link

The simple solution to this chess tactics puzzle

The move is the simple Nxb2. If you saw this straight-forward capture quickly then you should be congratulated for following the logical process of first finding all the simple captures and evaluating them properly.

If you found the answer – how long did it take you to find it? And if you found the correct move, how long did it take before you trusted that your move is correct? Did you for a moment also believe this is too easy and then started looking for something more complicated?

I find it fascinating how we humans can sometimes be so confident about a complicated combination and then we still feel unsure about a move as simple as Nxb2! However, in a real game you would probably find this move easily.

The fact that this chess tactics puzzle is presented as a problem can subconsciously make us think that the solution is probably not very easy. I would be interested to hear the opinion of other players as to why this sometime happens. Feel free to tell us in the comments.

Edited note:

I should add some advice to this article. How do one go about to avoid such oversights?

When you are about to do a chess tactics puzzle, first get some general information from the position – ie. find all the threats, checks and captures (the basic interaction between all the pieces). Do a quick material comparison to realise whether there is a material imbalance between the 2 sides.

Important advice on solving chess tactics puzzles:

Find all the forcing candidate moves before you start calculating anything!

A forcing candidate move is a move that forces a certain response. Such moves include 1) all the moves that check the enemy king, 2) all the moves that capture something and 3) all the moves that threaten something.

Finding all the candidate moves is a very important step and it is something you should do not only when solving puzzles but also in a real game. If you follow this approach it will help your calculation skills to improve quite dramatically. This is the correct approach to training tactics and will help you improve the thinking process which you should follow in your games too.


  1. Michael Chollet says:

    Hello, Louis! I confess…I spent an honest 4-5 mins on this puzzle and did not find Nxb2! The best I came up with was Qe5+, forcing an exchange of Q’s! WHY??? I work Visualwize, ChessTacticsServer, tactics in books, etc….TACTICS,TACTICS,TACTICS…..and still miss Nxb2!!! I agree that when a position is PRESENTED as a puzzle/problem, our brains seem to go into some automatic hyper-drive. Does this altered state lead us to “miss the obvious”? To create complications? I’d say the answer is probably, “yes”! Is tactical acumen/ability God-given to a chosen few? I’m beginning to think another, “yes”! Does the tedium of endless tactical exercises wreak havoc upon the spirit of, our enjoyment of and imagination in chess? Yet another, “yes”! I’m a big fan of Visualwize and I’m sure it has helped (+250 rating points on ICC since I began). Still, I find myself frustrated and have this feeling I’m missing some “Nxb2″ kind of magic key/sight which strong players possess. Has Magnus really committed roughly 10,000 classic master games/positions to memory as his “60 Minutes” interview stated??? I remain, your ardent fan, Michael Chollet

    • The funny part is that the problem was rated quite high – over 1650 – which implies a lot of people missed the obvious.

      I think the solution lies in our habits. In my other articles you will notice I write a lot about habits. Habits can count against us but if we train them correctly, they can become our valued friends in the form of skills.

      I believe the value of a program like Visualwize lies in the fact that you take the visualization skill with you into the game/puzzle. However, visualization is an important skill but definitely not the only one. I believe that probably a steady decision-making process is just as important.

      Fortunately, this is something you can train. I suggest that for the next few months – with every puzzle you ever do – first collect the basic information from the position, ie. find the basic interaction between the pieces and determine the material balance etc. Also, find ALL the candidate moves (all the threats, checks and captures) before you start analyzing any moves. This approach is beneficial because it is something you should also doing when playing a normal game.

      Make it a habit to find all candidate moves before you start calculating. On that way you will probably not miss a move like Nb2.

  2. it wasn’t hard to find that move. but it asks;”White to play and win” which for me implies that you have to make one move and win it. and that’s impossible.anyway,
    knight takes b2, then rock takes c2, and now you have to move your knight to d1 or d3. Qe5+. kings has it best cover in g8. white has to move one of its pawn, so it doesn’t get check mate in a case that white moves its rock or it gets capture by black. h2. black can put pressure on the knight or connect the rocks of F row. and the game goes on for few more moves. but it’s 3am here and I have to sleep.
    anyway thanks for your websites and videos, they are very useful and educational

    • (before I sleep I realized that rf2 is not a possible because kxf2, but you get the point, that only move doesn’t win the game, it just creates better position for white, and black still has a shot)

    • you don’t really need to move the knight on b2 – so after 1.Nxb2 Rxc2 – if black plays Rxb2 then Qe5+ wins the rook. So b2 is indirectly defended. But yes after 1.Nxb2 white’s position is much stronger and can be seen as a “winning” position.

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